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Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012

  

Steam Precludes Class Action Lawsuits

Valve announces an updated Steam Subscriber Agreement, becoming the latest company to attempt to avoid potential class action lawsuits by prohibiting them as a term of service. Here is their explanation of this:

We’re also introducing a new dispute resolution process that will benefit you and Valve. Recently, a number of companies have created similar provisions which have generated lots of discussion from customers and communities, and we’ve been following these discussions closely. On Steam, whenever a customer is unhappy with any transaction, our first goal is to resolve things as quickly as possible through the normal customer support process. However in those instances in which we can't resolve a dispute, we've outlined a new required process whereby we agree to use arbitration or small claims court to resolve the dispute. In the arbitration process, Valve will reimburse your costs of the arbitration for claims under a certain amount. Reimbursement by Valve is provided regardless of the arbitrator’s decision, provided that the arbitrator does not determine the claim to be frivolous or the costs unreasonable.

Most significant to the new dispute resolution terms is that customers may now only bring individual claims, not class action claims. We considered this change very carefully. It’s clear to us that in some situations, class actions have real benefits to customers. In far too many cases however, class actions don’t provide any real benefit to users and instead impose unnecessary expense and delay, and are often designed to benefit the class action lawyers who craft and litigate these claims. Class actions like these do not benefit us or our communities. We think this new dispute resolution process is faster and better for you and Valve while avoiding unnecessary costs, and that it will therefore benefit the community as a whole.

Max Payne 3 DLC Plans Reworked

Rockstar Games announces the Local Justice DLC for Max Payne 3 will be released on August 9th for the Windows edition of the third-person shooter sequel, and will be available for USD $2.00 off its regular $7.99 price for the first week of availability. This is followed by news about the remaining DLC explaining that the previous plan for five DLC packs has changed, and they now intend to release that content spread across three larger DLC releases. Here's the deal:

As mentioned earlier today, here's the latest update on our plans for Max Payne 3 DLC through the summer and fall. In addition to the FREE Disorganized Crime Pack coming this August, we've consolidated the content from the remaining five packs into three larger packs, with the content from the previously announced New York Minute Co-Op Pack and Trickle Down Economics Map Pack now spread across these upcoming releases. The Co-Op content originally planned for the New York Minute Pack has been integrated into the Deathmatch Made In Heaven Pack. Check out the full release schedule below:

  • Disorganized Crime Pack: August [Free]
  • Hostage Negotiation Map Pack: September [800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE) or $9.99 (PlayStation Network and PC)]
  • Painful Memories Map Pack: October [800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE) or $9.99 (PlayStation Network and PC)]
  • Deathmatch Made In Heaven Mode Pack: October [800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE) or $9.99 (PlayStation Network and PC)]

The free Disorganized Crime Pack for Max Payne 3 lets you to battle above the streets surrounding Max’s old apartment in the new Hoboken Rooftops multiplayer map. This pack also includes several new modifiers for Score Attack in Arcade Mode including Explosive Rounds where all your bullets detonate on impact, Lone Wolf AI for much more aggressive enemies and Headshots Only where the only way to kill your enemies is with a bullet in the head.

Owners of the Max Payne 3 Rockstar Pass still gain access to all Max Payne 3 DLC at a 35% savings over the cost of purchasing individual packs. The Rockstar Pass is available now for the one-time cost of 2400 MS Points on Xbox LIVE or $29.99 on PlayStation Network and PC.

The Political Machine 2012 Released

Stardock Entertainment announces a chance to take another ride on the virtual election cycle with the release of The Political Machine 2012, an updated version of this simulation of the squeaky clean world of U.S. politics. Here's the deal:

Calling all armchair presidential candidates! Today Stardock Entertainment announced the 2012 edition of its popular political strategy game, The Political Machine. Play as a myriad of political powerhouses including Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich or create your own candidate from scratch and march toward the White House in the best election simulator available. The Political Machine 2012 is available now for $9.95 through most digital distributors, including Steam (http://store.steampowered.com/app/211120/). It requires a Windows PC and an Internet connection to download.

The Political Machine 2012 features updated political topics from across the United States such as Afghanistan, the economy, Obamacare, income inequality, gun control, gay rights and the national debt. Regional issues require the candidate to walk a tight rope between appealing to the widest range of voters and appearing to “flip flop”.

Continue here to read the full story.

Guns of Icarus Online Beta Weekend

The Guns of Icarus Online Website has news that this weekend will be another closed beta testing period for this steampunk multiplayer airship combat game. Word is: "And we’re running another closed beta this weekend! Surprise, surprise! What we’re doing this round is ramping up players and of course testing a few more things. We have to ready our servers for the load during the ominous open beta coming soon. So we’re doing a promotional drive right now to attract more players into this round of beta."

EA and Take-Two Financials

EA Announces a New CFO and releases its Q1 results for fiscal year 2013, showing slightly lower than expected losses on USD $201 million in earnings. Take-Two reports their results as well showing losses on weaker than expected sales of Max Payne 3 and Spec Ops: The Line, though optimistic word from their post-earnings (losses) conference call says that Borderlands 2 is the "third most pre-ordered game in Take Two history (behind two GTA games)." MarketWatch offers some analysis of the news.

Evening Screenshots

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Evening Mobilization

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Into the Black

Link of the Day: All the American Flags On the Moon Are Now White. Thanks Devicer.

The Old Republic F2P This Fall

EA announces that they are adding a free-to-play option to Star Wars: The Old Republic this fall, a move many have been expecting for the Star Wars MMORPG, which has not exactly being WoWing everyone with its subscription model. Word is: "This option will give players access to each of the eight iconic Star Wars character class storylines, all the way up to level 50, with certain restrictions*. Unlimited game access, including new higher-level game content and new features will be made available through individual purchases or through a subscription option." Here's more:

Starting this fall, there will be two different ways to play Star Wars: The Old Republic:

  • Subscription – A service designed for players who want unrestricted access to all the game features via ongoing subscription or by redeeming a Game Time Card. In addition to gaining access to all game content as our current subscribers do now, Subscribers will receive ongoing monthly grants of Cartel Coins**, the new virtual currency that will be introduced later this fall. Cartel Coins can be used to purchase valuable items including customizable gear and convenience features that will enhance the game play experience.
  • Free-to-Play –The first 50 levels will be free-to-play, with some restrictions on access to new content and advanced player features. Some restrictions can be “unlocked” with Cartel Coins.

As the first step towards adding the new Free-to-Play option this fall, in August at retail Star Wars: The Old Republic will go on sale for $14.99 USD, including one-month of free subscription.

Bullet Run Launches

SOE announces that Bullet Run has emerged from the beta phase, and this free-to-play first-person shooter is now officially live:

Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE) today announced that Bullet Run has completed open beta testing and is now officially live for the PC. Developed by ACONY Games, Bullet Run is a new free-to-play first-person shooter (FPS) that brings together the elements of the FPS genre with unique levels of immersion and character progression; AAA gunplay coupled with action-oriented twitch gameplay and special in-game abilities provides players with a more in-depth tactical gaming experience.
Continue here to read the full story.

PlanetSide 2 Beta Imminent

Some tweets from John Smedley indicate that beta testing for PlanetSide 2 will commence soon, perhaps as soon as Friday or Monday. He notes that they were shooting for launching testing for the MMOFPS sequel yesterday or today, "but we have some stuff we need to make sure is awesome," and that "the team is working like crazy but we need to polish some stuff and test it before we let in a massive # of people." Thanks VG247.

Bethesda S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 Rumor

This tweet from Sergey Galyonkin, marketing director at 1C Multimedia and this blog post have sparked rumors that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 is in development at Bethesda Softworks after development of the first-person shooter sequel was frozen following trouble at developer GSC Game World. The Steam Forums (thanks PlayStation Universe) has a translation:

The following info is from a reliable source but isn't official, keep that in mind.

Sergey Grigorovich didn't sell the brand name "STALKER".

Bethesda is going to publish a STALKER game and has all the rights to it.

The game is multiplatform(consoles+PC) and is based on Bethesda technology.

It's being made by a studio familiar with that technology(possibly Obisidian or the Fallout 3 team from Bethesda, but no facts as of yet). It is almost 100% guaranteed that it's not a Ukrainian studio.

Bethesda will be able to buy the brand name from Grigorovich later, but for now all the misc. merchandise is his responsibility.

Release date, engine, detailes - TBA.

GUNS and ROBOTS This Year

Masthead Studios reveals classes from GUNS and ROBOTS, their upcoming recently unveiled MMORPG. The announcement of the game doesn't mention platforms, but we've confirmed this is a Windows title they plan to release by the end of this year. This trailer teases the game, and here's a bit on what it will entail: "GUNS and ROBOTS is engaging third person online shooter with inventive character design and an endless list of customization features. From incredible battle mechanics to funny looking robots, the players will be able to set their own game play. The best of them will be able to climb up in rankings and unlock various achievements. Different scenery and free movement all over the map will assure that players will have great in-game experience."

GNU Guru: Linux Steam "Unethical"

The GNU Website has statement from Richard Stallman where the founder of GNU and the Free Software Foundation describes his concerns about Valve's plans to bring Steam to Linux (thanks Ars Technica). He explains the freedom to install Steam games will impinge on a user's freedom:

A well known company, Valve, that distributes nonfree computer games with Digital Restrictions Management, recently announced it would distribute these games for GNU/Linux. What good and bad effects can this have?

I suppose that availability of popular nonfree programs on GNU/Linux can boost adoption of the system. However, our goal goes beyond making this system a “success”; its purpose is to bring freedom to the users. Thus, the question is how this development affects users' freedom.

Nonfree game programs (like other nonfree programs) are unethical because they deny freedom to their users. (Game art is a different issue, because it isn't software.) If you want freedom, one requisite for it is not having nonfree programs on your computer. That much is clear.

However, if you're going to use these games, you're better off using them on GNU/Linux rather than on Microsoft Windows. At least you avoid the harm to your freedom that Windows would do.

Thus, in direct practical terms, this development can do both harm and good. It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux. My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm. But there is also an indirect effect: what does the use of these games teach people in our community?

Any GNU/Linux distro that comes with software to offer these games will teach users that the point is not freedom. Nonfree software in GNU/Linux distros already works against the goal of freedom. Adding these games to a distro would augment that effect.

If you want to promote freedom, please take care not to talk about the availability of these games on GNU/Linux as support for our cause. Instead you could tell people about the Liberated Pixel Cup free game contest, the Free Game Dev Forum, and the LibrePlanet Gaming Collective's free gaming night.

Skyrim Patch on Steam

The Bethesda Blog announces that a version 1.7 title update is now live on Steam for owners of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Word is: "For those on consoles, the current plan is to submit the update to console manufacturers this week. As soon as it’s available, we’ll let you know."

Eight-Figure CoD Settlement?

Cowen & Company analyst Doug Creutz thinks the recent settlement of the Activision/Infinity Ward lawsuits over the Call of Duty franchise and its developers may be worth tens of millions of dollars, reports GameSpot. It's not clear how he arrived at this figure, but it sounds like we will learn how accurate this is later this week when Activision reveals its quarterly finances.

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Out of the Blue

Have a vet appointment for the dogs this week to see what's up with the bloody stool I found. Obviously I am concerned about this, so I want to thank the couple of you who shared stories of similar problems that turned out to be fairly routine, for providing reason for hope that this isn't as serious as it seems.

Serious Links: Thanks Ant and Acleacius.
Play: Blocks.
Stories: Brazil Olympian breaks bronze medal in the shower. Thanks brother19.
Researchers find pop music is too loud and all sounds the same. Thanks WalterEgo.
TV News- Arrested, TCA's, Louie, Batman.
Media: Inside A Burning Building - Atlanta Firefighter Helmet Cam.
Glass Door Fail Compilation.
New York City 2012 Olympics Promo.
Auction: The Legend of Zelda NES Nintendo Prototype. Thanks Slashdot.
Follow-up: The Hobbit officially becomes a trilogy. Thanks nin.



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